It must be good: it’s an Australian Government Initiative!
I’ve been away for a few weeks on an important study tour, comparing the drainage systems of Newcastle with those of Cumbria. Unfortunately, my companion Jambo couldn’t make it to the UK. As I walked over the fells and sandy headlands of my old home I kept thinking how much he’d be enjoying himself. Instead, we hooked up with some visiting Kiwis, John and Val. We presented the opportunity as a house-sitting arrangement with the added extra of caring for a dog, when in truth it was caring for a dog with the added extra of having a house.
I got back on Saturday, and that afternoon the two of us returned to the drain.
The big rains of December had scoured the bed, and the follow-up rains meant that there was barely a polystyrene cup or fag end to be seen.
I was thinking, as I rounded the bend towards the railway bridge, how little had changed. There was a new roll-up next to the WORLD PEACE one. WORLD PEACE next to GODLESS seemed somehow … something. Not ironic; in fact, quite the opposite. The state things are in at the moment we’re more likely to see world peace in a Godless world.
A black-shouldered kite swooped and heckled a grey goshawk, something I’d never seen before. I’d always considered these little kites to be quite delicate creatures but it really gave it to the goshawk.
Here was something different though. As we arrived at the weir by the TAFE we saw a group of people with a dog and an electric remote-controlled boat. Jambo was fascinated and in he went. There was a time when he’d have swum over to find out was going on. If it weren’t for his incessant curiosity I’d never have got to know Old Mate and might never have written A Year Down the Drain. But this time he was content to stand and watch. Is he getting old? He did turn six on Boxing Day but that’s hardly old for a terrier.
Maybe things are changing around me more than I’d realised. What will 2016 bring? What will I think about the year when I re-read this post, in January 2017?
Which is perhaps a rather maudlin way of wishing you all a happy new year. I think!
What, ladies and gentlemen, is this?
Is it: (a) an hilarious toy; (b) a potential death trap for a sea turtle; (c) a piece of soft, fabric-based marine pollution; or (d) all of the above? Yes. Whatever. It’s part of that thing, an “environmental problem”
The problem with the “environmental problem” is that (unlike the water bomb) it’s so bloody big. And not only is it absolutely humungous, there’s the horrible and distressing knowledge that much of it could be solved in an instant if only THE IDIOTS would listen to us. It’s enough to make you swoon into a funk.
So after you’ve shouted at the internet or the telly because some amalgam of global corporations have once again stomped all over the community’s wishes for <consumer deposit legislation / better urban planning / insert whatever appropriate cause> then it’s useful to gather yourself up and head towards the nearest group of likeminded folk.
This weekend I went to Tighes Hill Public School to learn how to identify litter. No, seriously. Because this is a serious business. The Ocean and Community Care Initiative (OCCI) hosted the morning, supported by the HCRCMA, and introduced about 15 of us to the concept of litter logging. Here we all are, ready to go by the Carrington mangroves.
Litter logging is a system that’s been developed by Tangaroa Blue to quantify the crap, which in our world of bean counters and accountability is a necessary way of countering the arguments that global packaging corporations use to sidestep responsibility for the state of our oceans and waterways. So they gave us bags and gloves and “slates” – rewritable boards with all the different types of litter listed on them. Then, every time we picked up a piece of litter, we logged it on the slate. Every cigarette butt, foam bead, torn piece of plastic wrapping, syringe, water bomb …
Holy Mother of God!!!!
Here’s the editor the OCCI newsletter, about to go insane after logging his 13,915th Minty wrapper before chucking it in the dirt bag.
After 50 minutes we’d picked up, logged and bagged about 50+ kilos of stuff. On recent beach walks these heroes gathered and logged over 500 kilos of rubbish over a 6 km stretch. All the data then goes off to Tangaroa Blue and is entered into their online database. And then we send it off to The Man. In your face, neocapitalist pigs!
It’s one of those tasks that seems just too brain-sappingly large to contemplate, but I know that it has a purpose. And a good one at that. So I’m getting me a kit for the Styx and I’m going to start logging the crap that comes bobbing down the beck. Now, was that water bomb a piece of soft, fabric-based marine pollution, an hilarious toy or a foam death trap?
A couple of years ago I edited a book written by an anthropologist who worked with communities along the Murray and Darling rivers. This was at the height of the drought, about a year before La Nina came along nearly washed Brisbane away, and there was a common thread that ran through all the feedback: the river needs a big flush.
These big flush events can be mixed blessings. Of course it’s good for ephemeral marshes to be inundated but there’s also the spread of feral and pest species, the effects of black water on oxygen levels, the moving of filth into all kinds of unexpected places. But I was reminded of everyone’s desire for a “big flush” myself the other day as I passed under the Chatham Road bridge. It’s getting jammed up there with litter and filth and, even though I know it’s only pushing the problem somewhere else, I really wished for a big rain to take it all away.
Among the trash was this beautiful feather. Is it a goshawk? Or maybe a koel. I’m not sure.
It certainly doesn’t belong to this young magpie, discovered at the foot of one of the figs in Richardson Park.
But in the midst of death is life, as it were. The gasworks is teeming with flies at the moment; it reminds me of being out bush in central Australia near a cattle station. (That’s my benchmark for fly-i-ness.) But my walks around there have been given a fun boost by my new best friend, H-FOOT. I don’t know who s/he is, but since I received my cryptic postcard I’ve noticed his/her markings all around the place.
Am I being stalked? I do hope so!
The cylinders in the ELGAS place are starting to gather, a bit like the wildebeests do before taking off on their mass migration across the Serengeti. The herd makes decisions about the elderly, the infirm, the weak and the rusty; they are “The Condemned”.
The rest group themselves into large packs. Actually, I’m not sure that the wildebeest analogy really works. They look more like something off a Pertwee-period Dr Who.
There’s also been a bit more graffiti activity in recent weeks. Is it seasonal? Is it linked to the mustering of the gas bottles?
The LDI boys have been out but, to be frank, I’m not impressed with their development. A couple of things they’ve done have been quite interesting but they seem to be stuck in big roller-coaster mode at the moment. The most touching development (and I don’t think it’s just the LDI crew) is the inclusion of gooey dedications to sweethearts: [heart] Alysa; georgia + bella. Aww.
I was interested to see a bit of the good old scratching-your-name-with-a-rock routine. Most of it was too rude to reproduce on such a genteel blog as this one, but I think that any encouragement to play urban tennis should be encouraged and applauded. (Is it like urban golf, or is it something rude that I don’t understand?)
The family of ducklings are still at nine, which is remarkable – especially given Jambo’s daily efforts to cull their numbers. I came across this unhatched duck egg. It must have been quite close to hatching; a little shake and I could feel the embryo rattling around inside. I was about to crack it open to see how developed the little ducky had been but something made me stop; I don’t know, something that made me feel that I should gently put the egg back on the floor and leave it.
It’s still there. At least, until the next big flush.
The concrete for the bankings of the creek was mixed on site, back in the 1920s. It must have been quite smooth, in the olden days, but now it’s aged and weathered and there are places where you can see beach pebbles and shells, like splinters that have worked their way to the surface of the skin.
I thought that this was a shell at first, a perfectly preserved cockle shell, but when I touched it it was soft. It looked like one of those fancy Japanese mushrooms but it was a petal, though not a petal from any plant that I recognised.
We’re in that part of the season where we have a few hot days then a few cool days, each change marked by bluster and the roar of wind in the casuarinas and the rattle of gum nuts on the roof. The other sound I associate with this time of year is the tattoo of drink bottles on the creek bed. The tide picks them up and they bob around the litter boom by the TAFE, then the tide ebbs and they’re stranded till the wind catches them and off they clatter, eventually forming crescent-shaped middens until the next high tide.
Leaves and branches do the same thing. The creek’s punctuated by chevrons of leaf litter, swales made up of sticks and leaves against which all kinds of detritus bangs up and knots itself.
Shopping bags, birthday cards, thongs, syringes, L-plates, Care Bears …
I found another fish trap this morning. This one looks as though it had been put together as a foreigner at work, the frame being made of copper pipe. Or perhaps copper is used to avoid the corrosive effects of salt water. Does anyone know?
I also found a fiver. Yay! I love finding money in the creek. It has a special carnival kind of feel and I always make a point of spending it on frivolous things like Mars bars, takeaway curries, foam hats, whistles, chocolate-flavoured custard or stink bombs.
I held this fiver to my ear. It was a bit wet and was a bit green on one side (the fiver, not my ear) and it whispered one word: “Cider”.
Mmm. Treat time!